This Business Of Art: Part 1
cover made by witblogi
“A shot of Jack, straight up.”
Jim looked up from the depths of his glass. The mirror behind the bar afforded him a glimpse of the woman making such an order. From the half warped reflection he dimly liked what he saw and liked what he heard even better. A woman who was sure what she wanted, not looking to dick around or flirt, she was there for one reason.
He leaned forward onto his forearms, trying to see around the lumberjack of a man on the stool next to his. When he finally managed to pick her out of the crowd, all stern brows and full lips, a slow smile spread upon his face.
“That’s a strong drink for one woman,” he called down the bar to her, and her dark eyes slid to land on him, giving him a look of such disinterest a thrill raced down his spine. Oh, he was going to enjoy this.
“I’m Jim,” he offered undeterred. She blinked and looked down at the bar, pressing her lips together firmly. “Aren’t you going to tell me your name? If you don’t I’ll just have to make one up for you.”
A muscle twitched in her jaw and her eyes tracked the progress of the bartender, slowed by several more orders being placed. Jim licked his lips and opened his mouth ready to bestow upon her a brand new name-
“It’s Uhura.” She finally looked at him again, warning flashing in her eyes. “Just Uhura.”
Jim smiled again, pushing away from the bar and off of his seat, winding his way around the massive man separating him from Uhura. Sliding into the space between her and the next patron, he fixed one elbow onto the bar top and looked her over.
Dark skin and big eyes, she drummed her fingers, each adorned with several rings, on the bar. Her hair, hundreds of thin long braids, adorned with gems, shells and trinkets of metal woven in, was swept back and knotted at the nape of her slender neck. Her scarf looked old although the colours were bright, teal and tangerine. Jim wondered if it was soft as well.
“Fair enough. Nice to meet you, Just-Uhura.” Her drink arrived and she immediately slugged it back. He blinked at her as she slammed the glass back down, swallowing hard at the burn in her throat.
“So… what do you do?” He leaned into her space, making her roll her eyes and look him over.
“I’m a lapidary silversmith, and you have no idea what that means.”
“The craft of carving and engraving stones, working gems into metal – specifically silver. A jeweller. It means you’ve got talented hands.” He smiled, placing his own hand down on the bar next to hers. She looked up at him with something like amused surprise in her eyes.
“I’m impressed. For a moment there I only thought you were a dumb twinky barfly who only hits on women who can handle their liquor.” Her earrings shone brightly for a moment in the low light of the lit bottles behind the bartender. He reached out to flick one, just so it glinted for him, showing off her craft.
“Well, not only.”
Uhura laughed darkly, turning to face him. He noticed one of her rings looked staggeringly like a silver spider, its eight legs wrapped around the entirety of her finger between knuckles. The red glint of the gem in its thorax let him know it was deadly, and Jim suddenly did not like the look in Uhura’s eyes.
Whatever she was going to say or do next however was interrupted by an older gentleman sliding between them to order a drink.
“Pike!” Uhura’s features went suddenly blank. The man, Pike, turned to her with a kind smile.
“Ms Uhura, so nice to see you again.” He took a step back. “Oh, I wasn’t interrupting your conversation was I?” He turned sharp eyes on to Jim, his smile slipping a fraction. Jim kept his expression carefully neutral; there was something about this Pike and his all too polite and airy demeanour that reeked of bullshit.
“No, I was just leaving.” Uhura gave Jim a bitter smile and then slipped away and off into the night, her hair jangling just so as she moved. Jim frowned into his drink, lamenting the spectacular bit of cock-blocking action he had just been subjected to.
“Don’t look so put out, I just saved you your balls from a world of pain.”
Jim’s head snapped up at the deep sharp tone the miraculous Pike had adopted. He was leaning on the bar now, smiling benevolently at Jim.
“You were about to see what a woman like Uhura can do with a pair of tin-snips.” Pike gave a nod to the bartender as his drink was delivered in record time.
“Why are you talking to me, man?” Jim sneered, but all Pike did was smile some more and lift his drink.
“Lets go to my table.” He took a step away from the barstools.
“Your…what? Listen, I’m flattered but I don’t really go for-”
“I don’t think you want to have this conversation at the bar, Kirk.” The name fell heavily into the space between them. Pike’s smile returned and he led the way to a back corner booth where one pointed look had the current occupants scrambling to vacate their seats.
“Who are you?” Jim slid heavily onto the vinyl seat, dropping his glass with a clunk.
“My name is Christopher Pike.” He folded himself carefully into the adjacent seat, legs crossed casually, charcoal turtleneck making him look strangely authoritative.
“Jim Kirk. But apparently you already knew that.”
“I almost couldn’t believe it was you at the bar, but there’s no mistaking it. You’re your father’s son.” Pike cocked his head, eyes roaming uncomfortably over Jim’s features again.
Jim gave a shrug and rolled his eyes.
“What are you doing in San Francisco?”
Jim snorted. “What is this, like your turf? I don’t even know who you are.”
“You know exactly who I am.” The smiling portion of the evening was apparently over, Pike’s eyes pinned him. Jim frowned. He didn’t actually know who Pike was, but he was sure that it wouldn’t take much to shake it out of anyone in this bar. He was obviously powerful, and knew of his father, or perhaps, judging by his age, maybe even personally knew his father once.
“So are you going to tell me what you’re doing here? It’s a long way from Iowa, Kirk.”
“I don’t know. I was thinking about working some, figuring out what was so great about this city.” He chose his words carefully, slowly tracing the lip of the glass with one finger.
“And by work you mean paint.” Pike cocked his head.
“Looks like someone knows how to use a search engine,” Jim retorted tiredly. He didn’t want to play games with men who thought they were something else because they liked to sip brandy in their studies and jerk off to his father’s paintings.
“Not necessary. You have paint in your nail beds,” he stated simply and leaned forward over the table. This was where the business proposition came in: I’ll sell a few of your paintings if you just cower under your father’s name, do exactly what he did, reproduce his works. Jim was not his father.
“Look, I can pretty much guarantee I’m not interested in whatever you’re offering.”
“That’s too bad. I’ve seen what you can do and the art society, the culture, around here needs you.” Pike leaned back again in his chair lifting his hips to pull his wallet out of his pocket, “I’m willing to offer you wall space, you could have a show in four months. No questions asked.” He thumbed the leather open and drew out a card tossing it across the table to where Jim’s fingers rested.
“That’s my gallery. Show up at eight am on Wednesday and ask for Spock.” Pike slid to the edge of the booth. “If you’re interested, he’ll go over what’s expected of you.” He stood and straightened his shirt while Jim picked up the thick, ivory card from the tabletop.
“Your father was only known in the media for a year, but started an entire modernist movement. I dare you to do better.” Pike looked sternly down at him and then walked off, disappearing the same way Uhura had into the crowd.
Jim spun the card once between his forefinger and his thumb, downed his glass and looked at the card. The Kobayashi Maru, elegantly embossed in sans serif, beckoned.
In the bright light of Sunday morning, San Francisco was definitely something else. It was foggy and cold and the hills were brutal on his frugally conscious legs. But it beat the hell out of Riverside so Jim continued to plod on, gazing at the buildings he passed with an assessing eye.
He looked down at the scrap of newspaper in his hand and the back up at the massive brick building before him. It looked like a firehouse, but the ad in his hand said it was a studio for rent. Wearily trotting to the door he pressed the doorbell, or what he could only assume was the doorbell, and waited.
It took a while but eventually the door was thrown open by a man not much older than himself, dark hair flecked with grey. His hands looked weathered in a way that spoke about the copious amounts of mud and dirt that was caked upon the apron he wore.
“Can I help you?” he asked with a raised eyebrow, taking Jim in as he barred the rest of the house from view by keeping his arm anchored firmly on the door.
“I’m here about the studio for rent?” Jim lifted the ad by way of explanation. The man looked him over wearily this time and then stepped back from the door, gesturing for him to come inside. The space was huge, opening into a large kitchen with more red brickwork, heavy stone countertops and exposed copper pipes along the walls and ceiling. The second level overhung the kitchen, railed off but still complete with fire pole, which dropped down conveniently beside the coffeemaker.
“The space is upstairs,” the man said pointing towards a tightly spiralling wrought iron staircase in the corner. Jim noted that although it wasn’t prominent, a southern accent was detectable around his words, hardening his consonants and creating sticky soft vowels.
Jim followed obediently up and up to a small landing before being taken around the corner into the last of the rooms branching off the walkway. Inside the studio, huge dirty windows spilled morning light onto the bare wood floors. It was massive, brick-lined like the rest of the place and just Jim’s speed.
“This is it. What do you do?” the man asked as Jim made a slow lap of the room flicking the light switch and delighting in the floor creaks.
“Drawing, painting, enamel, acrylic, nothing toxic.” He shrugged and tapped at one of the panes of glass. A chilly breeze floated through the slightly warped frames.
“Don’t worry about the cold, it won’t stay that way for long. Downstairs we’ve got a gas kiln, and the glass,” he gestured up to the slanting windows above them that created the roof, “traps the heat. Makes the place feel like a goddamned greenhouse.” Jim looked over his shoulder with a smirk at the grumpy expression settling on the man’s face.
“If you’re also in the market for a place to live, there’s an attached bedroom.” The man crossed the room and pulled back the curtain that sectioned off the simple square room with mattress frame inside.
“Extra 200 a month. Not just for the space of the room but for water and putting up with a new face and name to remember.” He let the curtain drop and crossed his arms over his aproned chest.
“I’ll take both. I’m Jim, by the way.” He held out his hand and the man took it.
“McCoy, Leonard McCoy.”
After all the details had been worked out and Jim had signed on the dotted line, it had only taken a few hours for him to make arrangements for himself; packing up what little he’d brought with him from Riverside and placing the calls to get the rest of his things express shipped.
First things first: he needed a bed. McCoy strangely came to the rescue, explaining that the last tenant who lived there had found the mattress supplied to him unworthy and bought his own space-foam-wonder-bed. The original mattress was luckily still in the storage lockers somewhere in the back of the house.
With a bit of finesse, charm, and finally bribery he managed to talk McCoy into helping him haul the mattress back up into his bedroom. The experience was enlightening for Jim, mostly about his landlord who seemed to bitch about absolutely everything. Most bizarrely it wasn’t annoying, more amusing as Jim learned how mobile his dark brows could be and how expansive his swearing vocabulary was.
“I’ve never heard anyone call a mattress a ‘cock-sucking son of a whore’ before.” He laughed breathlessly, flopping onto the beast of springs and foam as soon as they got it into place on the frame in his room.
“Yeah, well you didn’t have to move that bastard twice, did you?” McCoy joined him, sitting down heavily on the end of the bed, letting himself bounce once or twice. Jim smiled wryly up at the windows, thinking of the other tremendous name-calling that had taken place. Surely if they’d been in an apartment building the other tenants would have been poking their heads out of their doors just to see what was causing all the fuss.
In fact Jim was a little surprised no one else had surfaced to see what all the racket was. The ad had explicitly said that there were three residents already living in the house. So far Jim had only seen the exceptionally ornery McCoy.
“More people do live here right?” he sighed, and tamped down a laugh when McCoy looked over his shoulder at him, one eyebrow raised sky high.
“Yeah, kid. You just won’t see them much. See, there’s this thing called money that we all need to eat. And the only way we can get enough of it is to work our fingers to the bone. Speaking of fingers and bones…” He turned to loom over Jim.
“You will not steal, you will not do drugs, and you will not avoid rent payment. You will be polite and courteous to everyone under this roof. If you break these rules I will cut off every one of your fingers, strip them of their flesh, grind down your bones, put the dust in my porcelain and make myself a china tea set. Understood?” McCoy seemed terrifically crazy when talking about real bone china, eyes wide and serious. Jim nodded.
“You got it, Bones.”
McCoy narrowed his eyes and picked himself up from the bed, “Alright, we’ll have no problems then. You do have money don’t you?”
“Yeah.” Jim got up as well and moved to his bags left on the floor, hauling them up onto the mattress one by one. “Yeah, I have money, and I’ll be working. In fact I need to see a man about a show on Wednesday. I need to get to the…something Maru? Do you know it?” McCoy, who had been pulling the curtain back so he could pass through froze, arm in mid air.
“The Kobayashi Maru? The Kobayashi Maru Gallery?” he asked turning around slowly as if on an axis. Jim paused, looking up in his process of unzipping his biggest suitcase.
“Yeah. That’s the one.”
“Who are you?” McCoy narrowed his eyes. “Jim what?”
“ Kirk. Okay? It’s Kirk,”
“Jim Kirk? You’re Jim Kirk?!” McCoy sagged against the wall suddenly, letting the curtain drop and half cover him, “As in son of George Kirk? The painter who kil-” He swallowed thickly on his words as Jim flipped back the top of his bag.
“Yeah, killed himself. The day I was born actually. Funny story isn’t it?” He gave a thin ironic smile and busied his hands with pulling out his soft roll of brushes and knives. He’d be lucky if he wasn’t badgered for money, or generally avoided by his roommates now. And damn, just when he thought he’d found a potential friend. He breathed out hard through his nose, reaching for the stack of pallets next to him.
“Right.” McCoy pulled the curtain slowly back again and turned face Jim, “Look, kid, I won’t tell anyone else if you don’t want. You can just be Jim here.”
When Jim blinked up, it was to find the curtain already swinging closed and Bones’ retreating footsteps soft as he left.
Jim slept fitfully that night, wrapped in crisp, newly bought sheets. He dreamed of revolvers clicking and paint splashing violently against walls as the wind blew through the rickety windows of the studio and ruffled the wide curtained entrance to his bedroom. Waking with a start at unknown-o-clock, he dragged himself out of bed and found the washroom down the hall. Splashing water into his face, he looked at his dripping reflection, rumpled, tired, and he tried to see what Pike saw, tried to see the man he’d never met.
After a moment he blinked hard and shuffled over to the towels. It didn’t matter, what was in the past was just that, in the past. He blotted the water off his face with a heavy, strange-smelling towel hanging on the rack and then stumbled back down the hall to the fireman’s pole. With a small secret grin he delighted in wrapping his legs around it and silently sliding into the kitchen.
Beside him the door of the refrigerator was open streaming light into the kitchen blocking whoever was humming softly from view.
“ Hello?” His voice was rough with sleep, while he raised a hand to block out the worst of the bulb’s piercing rays sliding through the crack between the door and the shelves. A gasp, followed by the snapping shut of the fridge, accompanied a slender figure standing and whipping around to face him. Without the light he couldn’t make out what they looked like, or indeed why they were now edging away from him around the back of the island counter.
Then the overhead light clicked on and he was face to face with the woman from the bar.
“You!” Jim gaped trying to recall her name but drawing a blank as he squinted through tearing eyes to see she slept in very small shorts.
“You!” She set her jaw, angrily pressing her fists into her hips, “What are you doing here?”
“I…live here?” He ran a hand through his hair, and then held his hands up innocently as she advanced on him pointing with a newly acquired and rather sharp looking kitchen knife.
“You’re the new tenant?” Her teeth gleamed in the burning bright light of the room.
“Yes, I take it you’re a roommate?” he asked, swiping a seat on one of the stools that lined kitchen’s island, “…Uhura…right?” He blinked at her trying to recall if that really was her name.
“Yes.” She rounded the island, throwing her knife down in favour of gathering together the items she’d taken out of the fridge and putting them in order, “You’ll have to forgive me, I don’t remember your name.” She glanced sharply at him.
“It’s Jim,” he told her, noting the lack of jewellery on her slender fingers and wrists. Around her neck was a single pendant, a gleaming silver Eye of Horus. Her hair surprisingly still clanked and jingled with its decorative add-ins.
“Jim.” She said it like a shot, a period at the end of a sentence, sharp and unimpressed, “What are you doing here, Jim?” She began cutting her bread. “In San Francisco. Don’t tell me about how you couldn’t sleep.” She tore a chunk of bread off and popped it into her mouth.
“I didn’t know late night personal interrogations were part of the roommate agreement. Must have been the fine print, hm?” He rested his chin on his fist, setting his elbow on the counter and surveyed her. Uhura dropped her knife and leaned one hip against the counter, inspecting his shadowed face while she wiped her hands on a dishtowel.
“They are when you spend a good ten minutes chatting with Chris Pike like old friends. I want to know who you are, Jim.” She returned to her sandwich making, clanging her spoon against the side of the mayo jar.
“What?” Jim frowned at her and she rolled her eyes.
“Please, I’m not an idiot. I saw you two tucked away in his booth. I know he didn’t just step between us to spare you lasting trauma.”
“I don’t-” She held a hand up to halt his protests.
“I saw what I saw, the two of you talking over drinks. So I’m guessing your story goes something like you came into town on a drinking binge and were coaxed into staying by the owner of the biggest privately owned galleries this side of Nevada.” She looked at him innocently. Jim felt the beginnings of a frown tug at the corners of his mouth; he owed her no explanations and certainly didn’t have to tell her anything.
“So what’s he paying you? What does he get out of it? Is he fucking you?” she asked before picking up her sandwich with both hands and taking a large bite.
“Who’s fucking who now?” Bones appeared at the foot of the stairs rubbing his eyes with one hand in the brightness of the light.
“Sorry, Len, did we wake you?” Uhura asked around her mouthful of turkey on rye. Jim watched as he shuffled further into the kitchen, his sleep attire a pair of flannel pajama pants and an old faded shirt from the University of Mississippi.
“‘M a light sleeper. Come from a long line of doctors, not your fault,” he grumbled sleepily. “But if you don’t give me some of that I’ll be forced to stop allowing that robot of yours in the house.” He lifted a shoulder in reference to Uhura’s sandwich as he slipped behind her towards the cupboards. Uhura chuckled and offered her snack up over her shoulder where Bones took a large bite and then kissed her on the cheek in thanks.
“This kid knows Pike, Len.” Jim frowned darkly, disliking Uhura more and more as he spent time with her. Bones grunted in reply, going for a water glass with sleep-heavy limbs. He didn’t appear to be willing to tell Uhura anything about Jim unless given the okay.
“You don’t think that’s interesting?” Uhura was watching Bones too, her sandwich held loosely in her hands. Bones took a long time filling up his glass and then taking a slow drink, setting his glass down, sending Jim a significant look before sighing.
“Pike knows a lot of people. A lot of artists.” He shrugged. “So what makes Jim here any more interesting than the last pretty boy barista topping off Pike’s morning latte?” He pinned Uhura with a stern look. “And for that matter, I don’t think you should be talking about what sort of contacts you have that make you interesting. It’s a bit of pot and kettle style gossip then isn’t it?”
Uhura’s hair jangled in its tie as she shook her head.
“I’m not hungry anymore, I think I’m back off to bed. Do you want the rest of this?” She held her sandwich out to Bones who took it with an easy smile.
“G’night darlin’.” He kissed her cheek again as she passed by him to disappear through the dark door leading off from the kitchen Jim had yet to explore.
Jim frowned at Bones as he took a large crunchy bite of his newly acquired sandwich.
“What was that?” He leaned back to try and see where she had gone. “What did you say? Who does she know?”
Bones rolled his eyes and swallowed. “The two of you are a matched pair. Don’t be nosy, it’ll get you nothing but your nose cut off around here. You’ll find out everything you want soon enough, but on everyone else’s terms. I’m not always going to step in for you. You’re the new kid, Jim.” He finished eating and washed his hands. “It’d be best if you remembered that.”
He gave Jim one last significant look and then left, flicking off the lights as he went, leaving Jim utterly alone in the darkness.
The next time he entered the kitchen it was by the stairs, passing by the open doorway to what could only be Bones’ room, the large bed within still unmade.
With two days to kill before he needed to get down to business, and half of his things still making a cross-country trip to catch up with him, Jim decided it was time to forage for living materials. Despite his best intentions when packing, his bags had turned out very little in terms of clothing and toiletries – instead he’d filled the depths of his luggage with his supplies including but not limited to: brushes, curled up and half dried out tubes of paint, water buckets, about ten sketch books and several hundred pens and pencils.
So he made his list as he shuffled along down the stairs and walked straight into what looked like a regular family breakfast. The family however was the strangest Jim had ever seen, consisting of Uhura reading bits of the newspaper aloud, Bones working a frying pan and another man Jim assumed to be the last roommate looking up at the lights through the bottom of a water glass.
“Jim,” Bones acknowledged him, sliding an omelette out of the pan and onto a plate. Uhura flipped a page absently and the man with the glass looked up with cheerful interest.
“You’re the new lad?” he asked in a startlingly happy Scottish brogue. He looked like an extremely friendly sort of fellow, with a ruddy complexion, pointy nose, and a mobile mouth. He was at least a few years older than Jim and perhaps even Bones, with thinning brown hair cut (or…maybe that was singed?) short.
“Uh, yeah, I’m Jim.” He gave a smile and took the offered hand to shake.
“Montgomery Scott. But you can call me Scotty,” he declared, offering Jim the seat beside him at the island bar. “Don’t mind the mess.” He began shoving a few more water glasses aside, their sides clinking together. Jim tilted his head, catching sight of a large peeling burn along the inside of Scotty’s wrist.
“Ouch, how did you get that?” Jim pulled a face.
“Why, I’m a glass blower! McCoy, what have you been telling him?” Scotty absently pushed his sleeves back revealing more scars and half healed burns.
“Nothing he didn’t ask about.” Bones picked up a fairly standard looking coffee mug and took a sip. “You want some eggs kid?” Jim ignored Uhura’s ruffling of her paper and agreed. He eyed her tall, wide lipped mug where it sat at her elbow, and then looked to Scotty’s scarred hands, cradling his own sturdy handle-less ceramic mug.
“Glass blowing then, that’s what the kiln’s for?” Jim turned to Scotty who nodded.
“Yes, that, and the good Doctor here has quite the little business model in the basement.” Jim turned to look at Bones who was concentrating on getting the omelette to flip neatly with a spatula.
“I repair ceramics when I’m not working on my own projects. They call me the Dish Doctor.” Bones began adding the filling to one side of the eggs. “I’m a potter,” he added firmly, giving Scotty a disapproving look.
“Aye.” Scotty took a sip of his coffee and glanced down at Jim’s speckled notebook. “What’ve you got there?”
“Oh.” Jim ran a hand through his hair and glanced down at his already substantial list, “Just a list of things I need to buy today: tables, clothing, toothpaste…”
“You’re going to want to add a dresser or two to your list.” Uhura spoke up from behind the paper. “This place was a fire hall not a house and there aren’t any closets.”
“Oh, thanks.” Jim quickly scribbled down the addition, while Uhura folded up her paper and swiftly stood from her perch at the end of the island.
“I need to get to work,” she sighed. “Thank you for breakfast.” She smiled at Bones, who saluted her with his spatula as he leaned forward and set Jim’s plate before him. She then slipped off, disappearing back through the same door she had during the night.
“Is she always like…” He picked up his knife and fork and dug into his breakfast. Bones merely grunted and Scotty sighed.
“Hell of a woman. You’ll figure it out eventually Jim, you seem like a smart enough lad.” He clapped Jim on the shoulder and swung his legs out from under the island.
“Don’t mention it. Alas, I’ve got to get to fanning the fires as well.” He set his mug aside, “If you see Keenser skulking about, tell the wee bugger there’s work to be done!” He declared to Bones who raised his own mug in acknowledgement.
Jim refocused on his meal after that, occasionally adding to his list while Bones puttered about the kitchen, cleaning and doing dishes.
“If you want to drink anything in the morning you’d better add coffee beans onto that list or pitch into the grocery pot.” Bones finally broke the silence, setting a large jar full of twenties before Jim.
“I’m officially in now aren’t I?” he asked with a sigh, fishing his wallet out of his pocket.
“If by ‘in’ you mean you’ve earned our undying trust? No. It’ll take a lot more than a few polite meals shared.” Bones smiled in a self-satisfied way as Jim tucked a few Jacksons into the jar. “But it’s a start.”
He replaced the jar on the counter and sauntered off out of the kitchen and into the basement, where Jim assumed he had work to be done as well.
Without any company and having finished his meal, Jim gathered up his notebook and set off on his day, ready to go shake up the city and see what fell out.
So Monday and Tuesday were spent poking through furniture stores, balking at prices, and finding flea markets full of much more affordable if not a bit style-challenged pieces. Moving everything back to the firehouse proved a problem until Scotty offered the use of his small, red, rusted-out pickup – that is, if he got to come along for the ride. Unwilling to let a good opportunity pass him by, Jim agreed, and Scotty had the old, dodgy vehicle he fondly called ‘the transporter’ puttering about the city in no time.
With his ragtag collection of possessions amassing, Scotty’s anecdotal conversation and company in moving his new things, and Bones shaking his head at the both of them, the studio began to feel like home in a weird sort of sense that Jim had never felt before. Not even the small farmhouse he’d grown up in had felt as intrinsically right to be in as this strange new place with its bizarre little adoptive family.
It was contemplating this new family that Jim found himself doing as he opened the door to the Kobayashi Maru on Wednesday morning. A large white building, it cut an imposing figure on the landscape of the city around it with its classical architecture. Inside however it was completely contemporary. A sleek, stainless steel reception desk rose up to greet him in the shade of the foyer. Beyond he could see the bright whiteness of the actual gallery, lit by skylights, calling to him.
“May I help you?” the woman behind the desk asked coolly, her dark hair sleek, her expression carefully neutral. Jim smiled, and she did not smile back.
“I’m here to see a…Spock? Pike sent me.” Jim flipped the business card over his knuckles and faced to towards her.
“Very well, I shall see if Mr. Spock is available. You may wait in the gallery.” She turned in her seat without waiting for his reply and picked up her phone. Jim backed away slowly, edging around the circular desk and strolling into the gallery.
Upon the white walls were paintings; most looked like they were part of a set. He glanced at the artist biography printed on one of the short walls near the entrance. Isaac Mendez. Jim blinked; he’d never heard of him. Wandering the gallery idly, Jim noted a few other people within. Most looked wealthy and had an associate with them taking notes. They were shopping, picking out which pieces they would fancy in their collection…apparently this gallery was some hot shit.
Entering a new room, Jim stumbled upon a massive floor mural picked out in blacks and oranges. He gave a low whistle.
“It’s a little ostentatious, isn’t it?” Jim turned to see an Asian man, probably the same age as himself blinking down at it.
“Can you imagine the shipping cost?”
The man laughed, his face crinkling attractively.
“I take it you aren’t a collector?” The other man asked slinging his hands into his pockets. Jim snorted and gestured to his jeans and chucks. Luckily he had managed to shanghai a western woven out of Bones before he’d disappeared into the basement for the day, but just barely.
“Do I look like I’m here to blow a million dollars on a floor?” Jim looked over the massive mural again.
“Looks can be deceiving,” the man said quietly, a heaviness to his tone that caused Jim to look up at him again. By the time he caught his gaze the man was smiling again. “Who are you here to see?”
“Uh, Mr. Spock?” Jim answered tentatively, still a bit shaky about the name. Was it a first name? A last name? A nickname?
“Ah, Spock, not too bad, at least you aren’t dealing with Number One. She was the one working the desk. She’s especially pissed today, forced to play secretary.” The man strolled lazily around the mural. “One word of advice, just don’t stare at him okay?”
“Stare?” Was he horribly disfigured or something?
“Yeah, he’s just…a little different, don’t worry you get used to it,”
“Thanks ah-” Jim realized he didn’t know the man’s name. The man hurried around the mural holding out a hand.
“Oh, I’m Hikaru-” he paused as if holding back what only came naturally. Jim grasped his hand and gave it a slow pump. There were probably a few Hikarus in San Francisco, but only one who would hesitate in holding his last name back. He was a Sulu.
The Sulus were a family made wealthy by collecting and selling art smartly. They owned all the antiquity and fine art auction houses on the western seaboard as well as a staggering number out of country. Rumor had it they were working on giving Sotheby’s and Christie’s a run for their money as the world’s pre-eminent auctioneer. As the cherry on top, they also possessed the largest private collection of antique weaponry (specializing in swords) in the United States.
“Not a common name, Hikaru. I’m Jim.” Jim flashed a smile. “Jim Kirk.” Sulu’s eyes widened in recognition.
“Kirk. Pike got to you too I take it?” Sulu grinned while Jim shrugged, but before they could say any more, another young man came ambling over to them.
“Ah, here you are,” he said to Sulu in a cheerful accented voice. The kid looked barely 21, with curly hair and big grey blue eyes. Jim smirked at the way Sulu lit up upon seeing him.
“Oh, Pavel, this is Jim. Jim, Pavel Chekov, my friend.” Sulu gestured between the thin Chekov and Jim.
Jim shook hands with Chekov. “Are you both here for meetings as well?”
“No, I just support.” Jim cocked his head at Chekov, that accent was some kind of …Slavic nation but damn if he could name it. “Hikaru is the artist.”
“He’s joking. I’m just a photographer. Plants and landscapes and things.” Sulu offered, flushing with embarrassment. Jim swallowed a laugh.
“I see.” Jim nodded, pushing his hands into his pockets and looking over the floor one more time.
“And you…?” the other, Chekov, asked curiously. He was a bold kid for looking so innocent.
“Oh I, ah, I paint.” Jim shrugged modestly and Sulu’s eyebrows rose in some comedic mix of knowing and surprise.
“Runs in the family?” he teased and Jim shrugged again, smiling back.
“Something like that,” he said softly, ignoring Chekov’s look of confusion thrown to Sulu. Before any more explanation could be offered however, the sharp sound of footsteps on the concrete floor rapidly approached them.
Jim turned. “You must be Spock,” he said with utter confidence in his deduction.
“Yes. This way please.” With that, the man turned smartly on his heel and walked away. Jim gave Sulu and Chekov a hasty little half-salute half-wave and hurried to keep up.